The Home Office has come under fire yet again after it was revealed that 1,500 UK passports that should have been returned to their owners have gone missing.
The news, revealed in a parliamentary answer to the Scottish National party (SNP), comes the day after the department prompted outrage by admitting it did not know how many illegal immigrants remained in the UK.
In her response to Stewart Hosie MP, Home Office minister Joan Ryan admitted that 1,561 passports sent to members of the public between February 2004 and January 2006 were unaccounted for.
Of these, 308 were "known to have been lost as a consequence of robbery or theft, or lost while being delivered by secure mail services", while the remainder were "misposted by couriers and not subsequently recovered".
It has since been revealed that 646,323 passports have been lost or stolen since December 2003, when the identity and passport service was launched - figures Mr Hosie described as "incredible".
"The Home Office needs to review secure delivery methods for passports as a matter of urgency. It needs to be made far, far more robust and, maybe, without confirmation of their identity, they should not be delivered," he said.
"We can't have this level of losses of passports where identity fraud and theft is very real and where terrorism is a threat."
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said the revelation was "just the latest in an ever growing list of serious Home Office blunders" - for example, it emerged yesterday that the the government had accidentally repealed the law making it illegal to obtain a forged passport.
Legal journal Criminal Law Week said the government had made a "spectacular error" by introducing the Identity Cards Act, which repealed existing laws on passport forgeries before new ones to replace them came into force.
The government rejected the claim, saying it was sure sufficient laws remained in place to protect against forgery, but following today's revelation, Mr Green said the system was in tatters.
He added: "A criminal who has obtained a genuine passport could well use it to obtain a genuine ID card under a fraudulent identity."
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg also expressed concern about how the "worrying loophole in security" shown by the missing passport figures would affect plans for a national identity card scheme.
"Many of the 600,000 documents recorded as lost or stolen may have been mislaid by individuals, but many others will have fallen into the hands of criminals and even terrorists," he said.
"It is a worrying loophole in security, and a stark warning of the abuses we are likely to see with ID cards."